HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Henrico County Public Schools (HCPS) is testing out new security measures, eyeing using metal detectors and wands at different entry points in schools across the county. HCPS Superintendent Dr. Amy Cashwell presented the idea to the county's Board of Supervisors during a retreat on Friday, December 2.
The decision comes after a string of gun-related incidents happening in and outside of schools in the district. Three times in November, a student brought a weapon to Highland Springs High School. Two of those incidents, while separate, happened on the same day.
Last Thursday, a district spokesperson said Dr. Amy Cashwell requested more random K9 sweeps throughout the district. That same day, School Board member Alicia Atkins said the board had been in conversations about increasing safety measures, including metal detectors.
"Considering now it's the students themselves that we are concerned about, bringing in weapons of one type or another, be it a gun or a knife, or any kind of weapon that we would be concerned about, it is now going in that direction, unfortunately," Henrico Board of Supervisors Chair Pat O'Bannon said.
While school officials were not able to share details on how much the security test would cost, how long it would last, or what it would look like, Henrico School Board Chair Marcie Shea said the county would utilize the updated security measures evenly across the county.
"They will be implemented across the division, in all types of schools, in all levels of school, and in all geographic places across the county," Shea said.
A ballpark estimate will likely come once the test is done, as county leaders said the school's emergency management team would be leading the efforts.
"Wands are a few thousand dollars, and a metal detector would be tens of thousands, maybe $10-15,000, maybe more," O'Bannon said.
It's a price county board members said they're willing to pay.
"This is the first year that I've really had parents coming to me, talking about how concerned they are about the safety of their children. Not just the parents, but the adults working in the building," Henrico Supervisor Tyrone Nelson said. "You can't put a cost on the life of a child, or the life of an adult that's working in the school system. So, this is something that's a priority for us right now."
The decisions over how wands or metal detectors will be installed will be decided by school leaders.
O'Bannon said she hopes the county can find a middle ground with helping keep children safe, while also not making them feel overwhelmed by security measures when they enter school.
"I want to keep them as children, but we also want to protect them, so where do you draw a line as to what we can or should do," she said.
Nelson and Shea said it was something they hoped parents will support, considering measures like wands are already used at high school sporting events in the county.
She and other school representatives said this is just another layer of protection, alongside SROs, cameras, and other measures. School district representatives also said they're encouraging parents and community members to have serious conversations about school safety, violence, and mental health with their students.
"As an elementary school mom, and as a parent, and as a former teacher, I want my children to be safe at school. As a board, we want all students to be safe at school. We want all parents to be able to put their child on the bus with confidence to know that they will be safe at school," Shea said.
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